By Julie Johansen
With the lifespan of coal-fired power plants lurking in the future, Emery County Commissioners, with Lynn Sitterud at the helm, are conscientiously working to increase jobs and the tax base in Emery County. The county has purchased the Central Warehouse above Orangeville and are busily adding infrastructure and remodeling to develop the San Rafael Research Center. Funding has been secured by a Community Impact Board (CIB) grant in the amount of $2.625 million and help from Senator David Hinkins for over $1 million. Currently, an upgraded power line and natural gas line need to be added to the facility.
The center will be a non-profit organization with their goal of becoming an incubator to create businesses in the county. Emery County will be the landlord and the actual business will be operated through the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition. The counties in the coalition are Duchesne, Daggett, Emery, Carbon, Uintah, Sevier and San Juan.
There is potential for five research facilities at the center. The first one a molten salt/thorium power generation with medical isotope harvesting. This would be the only one of its kind in the United States, even though the U.S. uses more medical isotopes than other countries. United States Congress recently mandated that a domestic source be created by 2025. Thorium is an abundant silvery metallic element mainly mined on the Idaho and Montana boarder. It is nuclear but has much safer than uranium.
A coal combustion research will be conducted in an adjacent building with a combustion machine from University of Utah. Coal gasification and carbon fiber from coal research are also being planned for the center. Additionally, an approach for hydrogen research has been received by the commission.